Welcome to another week of Things I Found Interesting! This one’s probably going to take a little explaining because my quirks are becoming more evident…
Ok, so when I was in high school, I took Spanish because that was practical and I was more familiar with it than French. (Also, our French teacher was terrible. I had her for Econ and literally all we did the week before Christmas was write letters to Santa, watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and eat crepes. It was a waste of time.) But a few years ago when I started doing family research (genealogy), I discovered a huge chunk of my family was actually French. I always liked the way French sounded, so I wanted to learn it.
Well, when I started last year, it was miserable. Every time I thought I was finally figuring it out, I’d start getting mixed up. The grammar didn’t make sense. I couldn’t figure out which words were feminine and which were masculine. (If you’ve never studied foreign languages, most languages that I’ve seen have masculine/feminine designations for nouns. English obviously doesn’t.) So for a while, I kind of quit.
A few months back, I downloaded an app called Duolingo onto my phone and tried again. Since I knew some of the basics (Bonsoir. Comment ca va? Etc.), it went a lot better. My Duolingo streak is currently somewhere around 46 days. On top of that, I checked out a book from the library about learning French, which is also helping. (The Duolingo app, for all of its great qualities, tells you absolutely nothing about the grammar or why you sometimes need to have t in front of phrases like Óu est t-il?)
As a way to practice hearing French, I like to watch my favorite movies in French. It helps because I generally know what the dialogue should be at certain points, so I can figure out what the words should mean. (I read French better than I hear it, so subtitles are a must.)
Anyway, so Monday night, I watched the new Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson in French (La Belle et La Bête). Oh my God, that was great. They changed some of the character’s names to be easier to pronounce in French. Let me give you some examples. Chip becomes Zip and Mrs. Potts becomes Madame Samovar (which is some kind of thing that assists in making/serving tea, but I think it’s Russian). But by far, the best one was Cogsworth. This dude becomes Big Ben. I’m not making this up! The first time I heard it, I wasn’t sure I’d heard it right. But even during sentimental moments, Lumiere was still calling him Big Ben. I kind of love it.
It’s kind of hard to explain what’s so fascinating about genealogy to me. I mean, it’s history, which I love anyway. I’m the person who would absolutely do someone else’s genealogy just because. But it’s real. Not that history isn’t real, but this feels more tangible in some way.
I had no idea where my family came from beyond some family members shrugging and going, “Well, our last name’s kind of German, so we’re probably that. And maybe French.” So about 3 years ago, I started doing my own research over summer break.
Now I have extensive records with over 21,000 names. My current project is turning that into something manageable for my family to digest, since they aren’t history people. So I’ve been creating a book-type thing with only their direct ancestors, who they were, where they came from, when they came to America, etc. I did this for one of my grandmothers and it was 70 pages long. But to be fair, there are some good stories deep in that one. Salem Witch Trials, wealthy land owners who owned basically half of the state of Maine, in-breeding (like…more than I want to admit to. Apparently first cousins were all the rage in the early 1800s).
*Shakes it off* You never know what you’ll find, after all. Anyway, on Monday I spent hours working on the book for my maternal grandfather, only to discover a new lead I’d never seen before. Apparently one of his ancestors, who I had never been able to trace out of Delaware, was descended from people who came from Switzerland. Since my grandfather’s side is heavily German, this was exciting because it was different.
Yes, I legitimately spend hours upon hours sitting in front of my computer compiling this information and something as small as discovering I’m part Swiss is incredibly exciting. If only I could get my masters degree in my family’s history. I’d have it three times over already, based on the hours I’ve worked on this.
Oh, and the other big research surprise I learned? My paternal grandmother had a sister than none of us had ever heard of before. She was listed in her father’s obituary and like, my grandma has never ever mentioned her. I haven’t talked to my grandma yet to even know if she’s aware of this sister. I would think she would have to be, right?
We’ll have to see what other surprises I find!